October 30, 2016 • Life for Leaders
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
In yesterday’s devotion I continued reflecting on the 7-11 Principle that is found in Jeremiah 29. If followers of Christ are to expect God to prosper their own lives, they need to seek the prosperity of the city in which they live. But what do we mean by prosperity? What does prosperity mean in the biblical text and what might that look like as we apply it to our everyday lives?
The word translated “prosperity” in Jeremiah 29:7 and 11 is simply the Hebrew word shalom, most commonly translated as “peace.” This word is a rich word that means far more than “an absence of war.” Shalom is a complete life where in every aspect of life things are good. Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice, shares multiple insights about how this applies to the 7-11 Principle:
The Hebrew mind would have seen all of God’s creation as a great tapestry that has been skillfully woven together. Thus, the state of shalom is nothing less than the flourishing of life relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As sin entered the human race through rebellion against God in Genesis 3, we have the great unraveling of God’s good tapestry. Relationships are marked by blame and violence. Physically, human beings now experience hardship, sickness, and ultimately death. Emotionally, we now feel guilt and shame because we can’t live up to our own expectations and fail to do what is right. Spiritually, we are separated from God and seek self-salvation through legalism/religion or libertinism/irreligion. Lack of shalom is the great tearing apart of the fabric of life as it was meant to be.
With these thoughts in mind, our reading of Jeremiah 29 has a richness that I think is significant. When God promises that he has plans to “prosper” you, this is a comprehensive kind of peace he is bringing. God is promising a quality of relationships, emotional wellbeing, physical sustenance, and spiritual intimacy that cannot be attained on our own. I’m not saying God is promising to heal every sickness or guarantee financial security, but he is promising to weave back together your life. Still, the 7-11 Principle holds here still. This promise of shalom is for those who are committed to seeking this same shalom for the city in which they live. God blesses those who seek to weave back together the torn fabric in their cities, neighborhoods, and communities.
This might mean that in Christ’s name you partner with a tutoring center. Or perhaps you could start getting to know neighbors and invite them over for dinner in order to make your apartment complex a more welcoming place in a culture that is increasingly isolating. A group might use their artistic, financial, and organizational skills to partner in renovating a run-down building. Business leaders can make sure they pay fare wages while still remaining profitable. Church leaders can stand alongside the disenfranchised in order to change policies that are unjust. Art could be created that promotes reconciliation instead of violence and sensuality. Maybe you’ll feel led to literally plant a garden in your city to bring beauty, create job opportunities, grow food, and thereby reduce in small measure the carbon needed for food production. As you can imagine, bringing shalom to your city could look like a million different things but it always seeks to weave back together something that was torn apart.
In many ways this is living out the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… .” Is there poverty in God’s kingdom? Is there racism or greed? Do kids go hungry? Is there disease in heaven? Bringing God’s shalom to our cities is a foretaste of God’s kingdom that he will establish on earth when Jesus returns. What a privilege it is to be part of the weaving back together of God’s good creation as part of living out the 7-11 Principle!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does your faith community demonstrate this weaving back together of torn places?
As you look around your city, where are the torn pieces of fabric? What might God want you or your church to respond to? Do you have a community you can do some prayerful imagining with? Is there an area that comes to mind that the Spirit might be nudging you to consider, perhaps even something you wouldn’t normally think Christians would be involved in addressing?
Thank you, Jesus, for taking upon yourself the blame for our sin so that you could give us your shalom. You allowed yourself to be torn apart so that we and our world could be woven back together. Your resurrection was the beginning of the undoing of the chaos that sin brought into God’s good world! Your ascension marked the beginning of your body, the Church, continuing your restoration project on earth until you return! May we, your Church, join in God’s shalom that seeks to permeate every area of life. Amen.